The backlog on the issuance of vehicle license plates by the Land Transportation Office (LTO) is expected to get worse after the agency admitted on Friday that new batch of plates that arrived in the country recently were put on hold by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) because the supplier was unable to settle the corresponding duties for the items.
Jason Salvador, LTO spokesman, said the license plates shipped into the country by the joint venture of Knieriem BV Goes and Power Plates Development Concept Inc. (JKG-PPI), have not been released because the supplier still needs to pay the necessary taxes.
Salvador blamed the Notice of Disallowance issued by the Commission on Audit (COA) on July 13, 2015, as the reason for the inability of the supplier to pay the necessary taxes because the notice stopped the LTO from paying the contractor.
“We asked the supplier to find ways to have the plates released, because we believe that the contract is above board and COA will eventually lift the disallowance notice and allow us pay them [JGK-PPI],” he said in a radio interview aired over dzMM.
Salvador’s explanation indirectly confirmed allegation that the JKG-PPI is financially incapable and inexperienced to handle the P3.8-billion motor vehicles license plates standardization program (MVLPSP) of the LTO.
It was one of the reasons why the Senate Committee on Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations (blue ribbon) sub-committee conducted an inquiry into the LTO license plates program.
Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito, in his resolution, cited the information he got that the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) allegedly favored JKG-PPI despite its alleged financial incapacity and lack of experience.
But aside from the alleged financial incapability of the chosen supplier, allegations of irregularities in the procurement process were also raised and were confirmed later by COA when it issued a Notice of Disallowance against the LTO.
COA in its disallowance notice dated July 13, 2015 found the P3.8-billion vehicles license plates contract was irregular and illegal and directed the DOTC to return the P477.9 million it earlier paid JKG-PPI.
The state auditing body found numerous violations of the Auditing Code of the Philippines; he revised implementing rules and regulations (RIRR) of the Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act and the Government Procurement Policy Board (GPPB), among others.
Officials found liable were DOTC Secretary Emilio Abaya, DOTC Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Jose Perpetuo Lotilla; Assistant Secretary for Legal Affairs Jaime Fortunato Caringal; Assistant Secretary Alfonso Tan Jr., LTO chief; Rene Limcauco; Julianito Bucayan Jr.; Ildefonso Patdu Jr.; Asuncion Manigas; Sheila Rodriguez; and JKG-PPI.
When asked if LTO has back-up plans in case COA denied its appeal to lift the disallowance, Salvador said the LTO will just continue to plead with the plate contractor for them to find ways to continue to supply the plates.
Senator Ralph Recto agreed with the observation that the reported inability of the supplier to pay the necessaries duties for the imported plates, puts a question on the financial capability of JKG-PPI.
According to him, financial capability is important in any procurement process because it is an assurance that the chosen contractor can implement the project without any delays.
Recto reiterated his call to the DOTC and LTO to suspend the MVLPSP and stop requiring vehicle owners to pay the new license plate fee.
The senator insisted that the DOTC and LTO officials responsible for the controversial license plates deal should resign or be fired by the President.
Several lawmakers criticized LTO chief Tan over the agency’s continuous refusal to suspend the license plate standardization program despite a notice of disallowance that was issued by COA
Senator Alan Peter Cayetano earlier said the sole mandate of the government is to serve the people, not the other way around.
“If public officials in agencies like the LTO or the DOTC fall short of fulfilling this task, or worse, if they repeatedly burden the public with their inefficiencies, then I see no other immediate solution but to fire and replace them,” Cayetano added.